Texas Longhorns running back Jonathon Brooks (24) runs in for a touchdown against Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday, Sep. 9, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Photo: Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK
Saturday night Texas went into a hostile environment and came away with their biggest road win since 2005 in Columbus, Ohio. No. 3 Alabama had won 52 of 53 home games headed into their matchup with the Longhorns and had not lost a night game at home since the 2015 season when Ole Miss beat them.
Texas showed many things at Bryant-Denny Stadium that the program had been lacking for years under an array of coaches: Good offensive line play, winning on the road, playing complimentary football and great quarterback play. All those things have been significant issues for the Longhorn program since 2009. Against Alabama on Saturday night, all of those concerns were squashed... at least for one more week. Like head coach Steve Sarkisian mentioned on Monday after the win there are still areas the Longhorns need to improve in. But if last Saturday night in Tuscaloosa was any sign, this is a special group and this season can be special too.
Sarkisian Has Silenced His Doubters
Understandably there is a percentage of the Texas fan base that entered the season with doubts about Sark's ability to lead Texas back to national prominence. Among the questions were if his teams can finally finish games off in the second half. In 2021 and 2022 it was a common theme for the Longhorns to jump out to first-half leads only to lose those leads in the second half and ultimately lose. Road wins were a struggle as well for Sark - even before he took the reins at Texas.
The win at Tuscaloosa answers both of those questions. Texas finished Alabama off in the second half, specifically in the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide answered a Texas touchdown by converting a 3rd and 17 along with a two point conversion to make it 27-24 in favor of Texas with 11 minutes left. Many Texas fans thought to themselves "here we go again with second half leads," but the Longhorns answered the bell. In a composed 7 play, 75 yard drive, Quinn Ewers ended the drive with a 39 yard pass to AD Mitchell. The Texas score was followed by an Alabama 3 and out and Texas got the ball back up 10 points with 7:08 left and kept it until the game clock read zero. Many previous Texas teams would have folded. Instead, the Longhorns handled the adversity and answered with a knockout punch. It was refreshing to see.
Recruiting Will Continue to be Successful
Recruiting has typically been solid at Texas, but it did not always come without its share of challenges. No matter if it was Mack Brown, Charlie Strong or Tom Herman, there have been times in which the recruiting and evaluation was not meeting expectations. It doesn’t matter how many 4 or 5 star players a program successfully recruits if the players do not develop. An example is Tom Herman’s 2019 recruiting class that was ranked #3 in the country. That class had just 4/26 signees start in a significant amount of games. The mental evaluation is just as important as the physical when recruiting players out of high school.
Prior to Sark’s arrival in 2021, Texas recruited well but missed on some of the top in-state players such as WR Garrett Wilson, JK Dobbins, Jaylen Waddle, and Jeff Okudah just to name a few. As the flagship university in the state, it is imperative that you keep the top players in the state home. Strong and Herman weren’t doing that. Since his arrival Sark has landed two top 5 classes, including flipping 5 Star LT Kelvin Banks from Oregon and 5 Star LB Anthony Hill from arch rival Texas A&M. Both of those players came in as true freshman and immediately made an impact at positions Texas badly needed impact players at. These are the type of players Texas wasn’t landing in the past.
For years when Texas was not finishing with a Top 10 recruiting class, fans and critics alike expected them to win on the field more than not. Year after year that did not materialize, but now the Longhorns are consistently bringing in Top 5 classes and they are starting to win on the field. The data shows that in order to win a national title in football, you have to have four consecutive Top 10, if not Top 5 recruiting classes on the roster. Looking at Alabama and Georgia’s best teams, they were landing Top 3 classes year-in and year-out. Winning games like they did last Saturday in Tuscaloosa will put Texas in position to land the elite talent they are hunting for to be a perennial college football playoff team.